Spotify and the algorithm that identifies emotions

In recent months we have been able to verify that Spotify is particularly active, testing endless possibilities, announcing new features, reviewing rates … Some announcements, such as Spotify HiFi and its new podcast monetization features have generated huge expectations, while others, such as stories, left us a bit cold, for not contributing anything really interesting to the service already the platform.

Among so many novelties, at the beginning of the year we learned that Spotify had patented a technology capable of analyzing speech and background sound, in order to try to determine your mood and, based on it, make musical suggestions that the system considers appropriate for that moment. This, by itself, already generates certain doubts, and I wonder if, in the face of the hypothetical implantation of the same, the company would previously take into account professional recommendations.

What I’m talking about? It is very simple. Music can be the reflection of the emotions we experience at a given momentThat is, if I am happy right now, it is possible that I will explore the Spotify catalog to find music that extols that well-being. But on the other hand, sometimes the relationship is reversedIn other words, music can condition our state of mind, just like other content that we consume on a daily basis. Let’s remember, for example, the day that Facebook played with our emotions.

And this leads me to wonder what effect it can have that the Spotify algorithm (or that of any other service) detects that my mood is low, and automatically begins to recommend the type of music that I (or perhaps other users) listen to. when they are in low hours. It may be a time to rub myself in my own grief, lick my wounds and move on, but it is also possible that if I let myself be carried away by a musical selection for my current state of mind, unnecessarily prolong discomfort.

And is that we don’t always need the same kind of music for the same circumstances, and sometimes we don’t even need the style of music that is normally associated with our current state. I will give an example in the first person: tonight I slept regularly, so right now I am feeling a bit tired. Should Spotify detect that and put me music to sleep? No, right now I’m listening to Siouxsie & The Banshees, and the next song will be by Iggy Pop.

And the same for when I am discouraged. I do not deny that at some point I fall, like everyone else, in rubbing myself a little with grief, but as a general rule, after a few minutes I modify the causal relationship that I mentioned earlier, I get three or four “hits” (from Happy Mondays to The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, going through the Black Eyed Peas) and, therefore, I use music to reverse my emotional state. And that’s where the Spotify algorithm scares me a bit.

When I was talking about professional advice in its implementation, I do it thinking about the effect it can have, for people suffering from emotional disorders, an “à la carte” musical selection, tailored for their mood, that is, containing what is usually heard in those circumstances, can have a negative effect on that person. If I’m sad, I might not want Spotify to recommend Satie’s Gymnopédies or Barber’s Adagio for String, because they surely won’t do me any good.

I read today, on The Next Web, that a group of more than 180 musicians and human rights organizations requests by letter Spotify to publicly commit to not use, license, sell or monetize the system. Why? Because he understands that this technology can be used to manipulate our emotions. There are actually several reasons that they cite in the letter, and in general I agree with all of them, but I found it interesting to focus on this particular point.

It is true that Spotify has stated that it has no intention of using this feature, but if so, why did they develop it? I still remember the times when Google said that it would never include publishes in search results, or when Facebook said it was free and it would continue to be … A not today can become a maybe tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow. And it worries me a lot that morning.